Ellie Rowsell, Wolf Alice’s eclectic soul, recently stated in an interview with The Fader that whenever she’s asked what music her band plays, she simply replies “rock music”. There’s something in there that sums up Ellie, and by extension Wolf Alice, when compared to 2015; it’s a lack of conviction or indeed effort. Frankly they’ve given up plans of conforming to any label, any genre and any expectation. This was the only way Visions Of A Life would thrive, through experimentation and by pushing the box further out rather than thinking outside of it.
Their debut My Love Is Cool was and continues to be a fantastic album, although it did suffer from chronic new indie-esque band syndrome in which there were some great tracks but the filler that tied them together, while good, were ultimately forgettable. The problem is that Wolf Alice are a very creative band, who needed time to soak in that creativeness rather than have it run-off onto the plate like in My Love Is Cool. Their time has paid off; Visions Of A Life is visceral, precise and terrifying. It really is spectacular from start to finish.
Opening with Heavenward, a personal account of the death of a close friend, sets the tone for Visions. Immediately it’s clear that this album will be an emotional experience, almost like exclusive access to Ellie’s secret diary. The theme continues throughout, with Sky Musings admitting the dark-thoughts she suffered during a long-haul flight and the punky Yuk Foo where she vents “I wanna fuck all the people I meet”, in a fit of backstage-rage. There’s also an aroma of punk in the air, or at least a definitively punk attitude, while the tracks snarl and bite they’re soft and delicate – an almost deliberate metaphor Ellie’s current frame of mind.
Beautifully Unconventional feels like a bolt from the funky-blue. Joff Oddie’s guitar performance is striking, in fact there’s a hook which is played when Ellie sings the chorus “Beautifully unconventional” which is so simple, but completely addictive. In a relatively dark-toned album it’s easy to see this one stand-out and become a favourite; that’s before Formidable Cool at least. It has a unique feel; there’s a rounded bassline commanding over all but Ellie’s slithering vocals – both leading the story we’re told. It’s the story of a bachelor and his victims, using his charming nihilism to his advantage against women looking for the love of their life. A track about egos, particularly how easy they are to see through for everyone except their victims.
Wolf Alice haven’t just stepped up to another league with Visions Of A Life, they’re playing a completely different ballgame. Many outlets have given the album 5-star ratings, and it’s easy to see those stars and wonder if they really can be accurate or just the result of sensationalism. But what Ellie, Joff, Joel and Theo have produced is something special; something that alternative music has been waiting for, especially the indie scene. Sceptics believe that guitar music is dead, long live the most revolutionary genre since jazz and while Wolf Alice may not have single handily saved the definite decline in indie’s popularity, Visions Of A Life is for sure destined to put some wind into the genre’s sails.
For fans of: Circa Waves, Estrons, The Maccabees
Words by Conor Tollan
‘Visions Of A Life’ by Wolf Alice is out now on Dirty Hit Records.